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200,000 expected to attend 38th annual Polish Town Fair and Polka Festival

The town of Riverhead put on its 38th annual Polish street festival, with all proceeds to be given back to the community. Videojournalist: Mike Cusanelli (Aug. 18, 2012)

Terry Diaz and Carolyn Trinkis spun and twirled under the large white tent as the Rich Bobinski Orchestra blared polka music outside of Polish Town Hall in Riverhead on Saturday.

As band members joined in on accordions, trumpets and violins, grandparents and their grandchildren danced and enjoyed kielbasa and pierogies nearby at the 38th annual Polish Town Fair and Polka Festival.

“We’ve been coming here for over 30 years with our parents and now our grandkids, too,” said Eva Diaz, 58, of Kings Park, who was born in Poland and immigrated to the United States with her three sisters as children.

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Every summer since 1975, the Polish Town Civic Association has held the weekend-long festival in downtown Riverhead, which celebrates the town’s cultural heritage.

This weekend, the group expects to serve 2,300 pounds of kielbasa, a seasoned Polish sausage, in addition to more than 16,000 pierogies, a traditional Polish dumpling filled with potatoes and cheese.

The yearly festival has become a town tradition, attracting more than 200,000 guests throughout the weekend to the corner of Pulaski Street and Osborne Avenue. The festival runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

“People have fun here,” said vendor Joy Glass, 59, of Rocky Point. “They come from all over for this particular event.”

The festival also features a re-enactment of a traditional Polish wedding at St. Isidore’s Church, as well as a polka dance festival.

The Polish Town Civic Association expects to raise $60,000 this weekend, which will go toward club activities, local charities, soup kitchens and scholarship funds.

“It’s such a small community, and knowing that the money we generate will go back to the community is the real satisfaction,” said civic association board member Tom Mielnicki, 54, of Riverhead.

While the festival serves as a way for many Long Islanders to celebrate their shared Polish heritage, others attend the fair each year to simply enjoy a cold beer while observing the sights, sounds and people of Riverhead.

“We come every year if it’s raining or not,” said Kyle Ratikan, 26, of Mastic Beach. “Everybody is out to have a good time.”

Tags: Riverhead , Polish , festival

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